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Japan Airlines First Class
If you’re looking for an incredible use of American or Alaska miles, look no further, flying Japan Airlines First Class is just that, incredible. The cabin is just 2 rows of all aisle access, massive, leather clad JAL suites, and service is second to none. You’ll drink the finest champagne, eat caviar, enjoy two amenity kits, lounge in pajamas and wish that the flight wouldn’t end. I’ve been extremely fortunate to fly Japan Airlines First Class twice before, and was just as excited to do it again en route to Singapore.
- When: July 2019
- Where: LAX to NRT
- Flight: JL 61
- Aircraft: 777-300ER
- Seat: 2G
- Flight Time: 11h55m
- Booked with: 75k Alaska Miles + $19
- We flew on to Singapore in business – if this was just to Tokyo it would be 70k + $19
We booked Japan Airlines First Class super last minute, online, using Alaska Miles. In fact, we flew on the 31st of July and booked on the 29th. Gone are the days when finding multi-day JAL space was laborious and weighted down because of a hard to use Japan Airlines website. Now, you can either search on Alaska or AA and find space 30 days at a time. We booked this flight, on my phone, 2 days prior to departure while taxiing on a flight from Indianapolis to LA. It was that easy.
- Read this article on accessing AA’s old award calendar which will save you tons of time.
Short on miles? Don’t forget Alaska has is offering up to a 50% bonus on purchased miles until December 23rd, 2019. A great way to lock down this, or a similar premium product at a fraction of the retail cost.
A quick refresher regarding Japan Airlines award avail
- Random award avail outside of 14 days prior to departure
- At 14 days, if 2+ seats are for sale, either one seat will become available or multiple seats for award booking .
- If only 1 or 2 seats are currently occupied in your desired cabin, likelihood is 2 seats will be released.
- They will release seats until just 1 is left in the cabin
- If you book one award seat and 2+ still remain, within a day or two another seat will typically be released
- If only 1 seat remains it will normally be blocked( for an elite, etc) and BA sometimes shows avail prior to other partners, even JAL.
- There are some work-a-rounds, but for all intents and purposes this is the pattern.
Check in at LAX was swift, but nothing compared to what you’d experience in Tokyo where you are escorted to a private First Class security experience and then to the lounge. At LAX, you’ll get a private check-in queue and access to Priority security. You’ll also be instructed as to how to get to/access the only One World First Class lounge at LAX, the Qantas First Class lounge.
Lounge: Qantas First Class LAX
Arguably one of the nicest lounges in all of the USA, 2nd to perhaps the AA Flagship First lounges which require first class travel solely on AA, you’ll be treated to great food in a sit down dining atmosphere, along with showers, many work areas, and of course – some tasty bubbles.
If you haven’t experience the Qantas First Class lounge before, and you’re flying First or carry One World Emerald status. If you’re a fan of calamari or caprese – I’d recommend both.
Boarding: Hello incredible service
If you’re accustomed to flying on American carriers where it’s not uncommon to feel like cattle, you’re in for an incredible treat. The service on Asian carriers, this is a generalization and refers non-mainland China based carriers, is like stepping into a world of fantasy.
We’ve all sat around and dreamed of what it would be like to be rich or royal. Flying in first class on Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, etc makes this dream come true. And this experience was no different. From the moment you get on the plane, the crew take pride in providing service that anticipates your every need. It’s quite special indeed.
While the champagne starts flowing as soon as you’re seated, the good stuff is popped once you’re airborne.
While many First Class products, even many business class seats, offer suites with door, Japan Airlines First Class does not. Is it missed? Not really. The encasement of the suites wrap enough that you don’t see your neighbors, nor do they see you when you’re sitting back in the seat.
It’s quite private with only 2 rows, and if you’re traveling with a companion, the middle seats are fantastic and offer a huge advantage over ANA’s old first class where you can’t even see the person next to you. The middle partition can be raised if you don’t know your companion, but when its down, you really feel like you can enjoy the whole experience together. The only negative is you can’t turn the ottoman into a buddy seat, but sitting side by side is fantastic.
Below you can see the details from seatguru.com regarding cabin layout
I was seated in 2G, the same seat I’ve flown each of the 3 times I’ve experienced Japan Airlines First Class. Either it or 2D are great for couples and provide great space and ability to converse. Any of the window seats would be incredible, but namely, if I were flying alone, I’d choose 2A or 2K as they provide the most privacy, 3 windows, and very few people will walk past you.
As you can see from seatguru.com – the seat is massive. You won’t lack for space width or lengthwise.
Having flown a number of International first class products ( Cathay, Lufthansa, Etihad, Apartments, Emirates, Qantas, British Airways, Singapore Suites, and Singapore First) one of the features of Japan Airlines First Class that stands out is the storage. It not only features overhead storage bins, but also – because of the seat width – enough space under the ottoman to stow a roller or backpack, or both. In addition to this storage, you also have the intra-seat bins, pockets, and cubbies to keep your valuables safe and accessible. Comparing this to other products, notably Lufthansa and BA, it’s a massive contrast.
IFE and ports
The seat is fit with multiple places to plug in and power up. The IFE is large and JAL provides Bose over ear noise canceling headsets. The only downside is, per most foreign carriers, the entertainment selection isn’t up to typical US standards. It doesn’t really matter so much because between enjoying the service, wining and dining, and trying to catch a few hours of sleep – you won’t miss the extensive libraries found on the likes of AA or United.
Lie Flat seat
Japan Airlines First Class seat goes a full 180 degrees flat, and is fit, with your choice of, soft or firm mattress topper. Personally, I find the JAL seats to be firm already so I prefer the soft mattress pad. In addition, you’ll get a comforter plus a memory foam pillow and normal pillow. The biggest negative of the bed experience is the cabin temp – Japan Airlines is notorious for keeping the cabin on the warmer side, which was the case here as well.
Japan Airlines provides each passenger with two sets of amenity kits, and depending on your gender, you’ll receive either a male or female kit. The Shiseido cosmetics kit is wonderful an
You’ll also receive a set of pajama which are SUPER comfortable. JAL has really stepped their pajama game up. These are super high qual.
Another amenity of flying JAL First is free wifi. You’ll receive a coupon code for your journey.
Upon boarding you’ll be presented with a leather folder that features both a western and Japanese style menu. I’ve always chosen the western menu but inquired as to ordering a couple options from the Japanese menu as well. One such item is the Roppongi pudding which is made especially for JAL and is super expensive.
Another great try is the Blue Tea which is served in a wine glass and retails in excess of $50 a bottle. A couple of years ago JAL also upgraded with caviar service to include mother of pearl spoons.
The funny thing, is I almost always order a caviar plate if its offered because it feels special and extravagant. When else am I ever going to order such a thing aside from international first class.
Japan Airlines First Class also changed their champagne service to include Cristal on flights to Japan and Salon on flights out of Japan. These bottles retail for $250 and $400, respectively. It’s quite a privilege to taste these, let alone do it in the luxury of JAL First.
Usually each flight is stocked with maybe one or two bottles of their premium champagne, and then provide Comtes de Champagne Grand Crus 2007 – what Lufthansa has oft served as their champagne. Not a bad second choice at nearly $150 a bottle.
If you’re looking for an outstanding first class experience to one of my favorite cities in the world, Tokyo, you won’t be disappointed choosing Japan Airlines First Class. After three separate experiences I’ve found every aspect of this world class product to be consistent and luxurious.
If you’d like to read my other experiences you can read them here:
Whatever you do…enjoy yourself.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starter card that earns Premium Ultimate Rewards that can be transferred into over a dozen partners many of which are US based.
60k Points after $4k spend in 3 months
80k offer in branch currently – I think this should be online soon
Transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards
Super solid welcome offer.
If you carry this card alongside Chase’s cashback cards like the Chase Freedom Flex℠and Chase Freedom Unlimited® or the business versions: Ink Business Cash , Ink Business Unlimited you can combine the points into Preferred account and transfer into hotel and airline partners
Annual fee is quite low at $95 a year + you get a 10% anniversary bonus on points + $50 hotel credit in Chase travel.
- 3x on dining
- including eligible delivery services for takeout
- 3x on select streaming services
- 3x on online grocery purchases
- (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 5x on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards – Chase Travel Portal
- $50 Annual Credit on hotel stays purchased via Ultimate Rewards/Chase Travel
- The begins immediately for new cardmembers and after your account anniversary for existing cardmembers
- 10% Anniversary Bonus
- Every year you keep the card, your total spend will yield a 10% points bonus. If you spend $10k in a year, you’ll get 1k bonus points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® continues to redeem at 1.25c in the Chase Travel Portal and the slew of other benefits remain in tact including primary rental car insurance, purchase protections, etc.
- Points are transferrable to 13 Ultimate Rewards partners
- Redeem in the Chase Travel center for 1.25 cents per point
- No foreign transaction fees
- Suite of Travel and Purchase Coverage
- Primary rental car coverage is my favorite
There is currently an 80k offer after $4k spend in 3 months available in branch, and up to 90k after $6k spend in 6 months. I suspect some version of this will be online soon if you don’t want the hassle of going into a branch.
We keep an up to date spreadsheet that lists the best ever offers: You can find that spreadsheet here.
Historically 60k is a very, very good offer. In 2021, we saw the offer hit an all time high of 100k. Who knows if that will ever come back. .
Cards that earn flexible points and should be used on the bulk of your purchases.
Cards that earn fixed points in the currency of the airline/hotel and can not be transferred at attractive rates. These cards yield benefits that make it worth keeping, but not necessarily worth putting a lot of your everyday spend on.